Romance resistance syndrome

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

OPTIONAL SEPTEMBER QUESTION: Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

MY ANSWER: Oh, yeah. Romance. Regency romance, to be precise. Most of my fiction is pure fantasy, sometimes with a dash of romantic flavor, but most often not even a whiff. My brain doesn’t seem to lean in that direction. But I won’t surprise anyone to say that romance is the most popular genre in fiction. I enjoy reading romances, especially clean romances, like Georgette Heyer, even though I don’t write them.

After I started putting my fiction on wattpad and not getting many reads or votes, I decided to conduct an experiment. A couple years ago, I wrote a regency romance novella, Fibs in the Family, and put it on wattpad (you can read it here) to see what would happen. What did happen flabbergasted me. My little experiment has become the most read of all my stories there. At the last count, it got 24.6 thousand reads and 1.6 thousand votes. People like it, and the comments are most flattering. I don’t promote it at all, but it gets new readers all the time. If I was selling this novella and got such numbers, it would’ve been considered a bestseller.

Now, I want to capitalize on its success and write another regency novella, with two different protagonists, but it goes very slowly. Didn’t I tell you that my brain doesn’t bend towards love stories? I even made a charming cover in the same style as this one, but my new heroine keeps trying to fix all her problems herself. She doesn’t really need the guy and not even sure she likes him. And she is supposed to fall in love with him. Argh! I’m struggling to stuff the story into the proper and very rigid romantic format, but it bites back really hard. I’m stuck.

I can’t even call it a writer’s block. Since I started working on this new romance novella two years ago, I’ve been getting distracted by other ideas. I have written another novella, a steampunk adventure, and several short stories – neither of them overly romantic – and even got a couple of stories published already. But my regency romance wouldn’t unfold.

I want to finish that story. I really like both protagonists. Many of you write romance. Any advice?

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Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Novella, Olga Godim, Regency, Romance, wattpad, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

WEP: Puss in Spots

This challenge, Reunions, is the installment #4 of Tasya’s story. I started it in the previous posts for the WEP. For those who are new to the WEP blog hop, the story progressed chronologically in the following order, until it arrived at this episode:

1. Shielding Misha
2. Golden Fish
3. Madonna Run

I embarked on this journey, Tasya’s 6-part story, thanks to Denise and Yolanda from the WEP website.
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“Try again.” Grandma pointed down the street. “Create an illusion of the woman who just entered the bakery.”

Tasya stopped pushing Roma’s pram and concentrated. At this time of day, nobody was around to witness her magic games. She sketched the knitted green hat and the shabby coat. She prodded the illusion into motion. What would the woman think when she came out of the bakery and saw her double? Tasya grinned, but Roma spoiled her amusement by whimpering. Her baby son wanted his pram in constant motion.

“Fine, I’m going.” She started walking again, but her grasp on magic slipped. The woman’s drab brown coat morphed into bright yellow. Tasya let the illusion dissipate.

Grandma chuckled. “You’re getting tired and sloppy. Why don’t you leave my great-grandson with me for a few hours and go to the zoo. You wanted to.”

“Oh, grandma. Truly?”

“Yes. You work hard on your magic. You deserve a break.”

Tasya pecked the old woman’s wrinkled cheek. “Thank you. I’ll be back by Roma’s next feeding. If I’m late, there is a bottle of extra milk.”

“I know. We’ll be fine.”

Tasya flew towards the bus stop. She did want to go to the zoo. Newspapers said they were bringing in a female snow leopard today, a mate for the male. She wanted to see the big cats’ first meeting. She even had a medallion of a silver spotted cat, already filled with her magic, in her purse, although she didn’t expect to need its protection among the animals.

At the zoo, a small crowd gathered to watch the gorgeous cats. They sniffed each other cautiously, and the newcomer, the female, roared her excitement. Tasya pushed her way closer to the bars. A child to her left chatted happily to his mother. To her right, two men in uniform stood silently, intent on something on the other side of the cats’ enclosure.

Tasya glanced at the insignia pins on the officers’ collars. NKVD. Alarmed, she traced their gazes to a tall thin man with a mane of graying hair who supervised the cats’ union. She recognized him from a photo in the papers. Professor Lukin, the head of the mammals department, the one who had brought the leopard from Siberia. Her magic twinged. Lukin was in danger.

Tasya inched her way out of the crowd and squeezed between the bushes concealing a narrow service aisle. She hurried to the path on the other side of the cats’ pen but stopped behind a small hut that backed the cage, out of sight of the NKVD men. She waved her hand frantically to get Lukin’s attention.

He stepped closer. “What?”

“NKVD are after you. They will be here in a moment.” Tasya grabbed the cat medallion from her purse and thrust it at him. “Put it on. You’re a cats’ man. It will protect you from arrest. Leave. I’ll stall those officers.”

He stared at her, then glanced across the cage, spotted the officers, and his face hardened.

“It will protect you, I swear,” Tasya repeated. “I’m a witch, a real one.”

After a brief hesitation, he nodded. “The real cats will protect me. I’ll hide in their hut. Those murderers won’t look there. If you want to help, a woman is waiting for me. In a wooden shelter in the south-east corner of the zoo. Go there. Give her your witchy medallion. Tell her what’s happening. Tell her to wait for me. Please. Help her. Will you?”

“You’re going inside the cage? But the leopards…”

“They won’t harm me. They both know me. I feed them.” He whirled, produced a key from his pocket, checked around to make sure nobody watched them, and disappeared inside the hut. The lock clicked shut.

Her heart stuttering, Tasya peeked out of her hiding place. The leopards still circled warily around each other, tails lashing, teeth bare, snapping occasionally. Neither paid any heed to the hut in the corner. On the other side of the cage, the NKVD men were elbowing their way out of the crowd.

A couple minutes later, they appeared on the path behind Tasya’s bushes. Her illusion was ready: a tall thin man loping away, towards the zoo exit, his gray mane flying. The NKVD chased after him.

Tasya made him whip around a corner before letting the illusion dissolve. Let them pursue the phantom. She marched in the opposite direction, towards the man’s wife.

“Oh, I’m not his wife,” the woman huddling in the tiny shelter said quietly. “I’m his… mistress, I suppose. I love him.” She gazed at the silver cat medallion in her palm but hesitated to put it on. “What if the leopards kill him?” She looked away. “Probably an easier death than if he gets arrested. Animals don’t torture their victims. They just eat them.”

Tasya winced. Not the wife? She didn’t like mistresses. In her experience, the breed was predatory, preying on helpless wives. What if her husband Misha found a mistress in Voronezh? He was on a business trip again. Should she take away the medallion, reserve it for the proper wife?

“You don’t look like a mistress,” she blurted. “Those are all beautiful and bitchy.”

The woman snorted mirthlessly. “You got it wrong, dear. His wife is beautiful and bitchy. She writes denunciations for NKVD. She got a list of names from them. Probably wrote one about both of us. She threatened she would, when we fell in love. When he got tired of her cruel beauty. Now he wants kindness and decency.” Her fingers closed over the medallion.

Tasya nodded. She should leave, she knew; she was already late for Roma’s feeding, but her magic wouldn’t let her move. She was still needed here, so she sat down beside the woman in the shelter. The woman glanced at her, her brows lifting in surprise, and shrugged. They didn’t talk.

An hour later, heavy footsteps pounded on the twisted path that led to the shelter, but neither of them had anywhere to hide. Tasya grabbed the woman’s shaking hand, the one still clutching the medallion, and tossed up the illusion of an empty shelter in front of them. “Don’t move, don’t make a sound,” she whispered.

Two NKVD officers ran past them in their flimsy shelter without slowing down.

“They didn’t see us.” The woman’s eyed Tasya incredulously. “We were right in front of them.”

“I’m a witch, I told you,” Tasya said. “I have magic.”

The woman opened her palm with the medallion, as if just remembering, and hurriedly put it on. They kept their silent vigil until Lukin showed up after the zoo closed for the night.

“They drove away,” he said. “Finally.” He opened his arms, and his mistress stepped into them without a word.

They stood in their quiet embrace for a long time. Tasya couldn’t watch. She left them to their poignant reunion and their forbidden love and tiptoed away, towards her home and her hungry son. She hoped her spotted silver cat could protect both lovers.

Posted in Olga Godim, WEP | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments

I’m a celebrity on wattpad

Wattpad’s group AdultFiction just published an interview with me. You can read it here. As you might know, wattpad is a large community of writers who post their stories on the wattpad site for everyone to read. I have several stories there, and the group moderators liked some of them. Hence, the interview.

Despite the implications of the group’s name, AdultFiction doesn’t mean sexual content. It means, in the context of the site, ‘not teenagers’. As teenagers constitute the majority of readers and writers on wattpad, the mature writers felt the need to create a separate group for themselves.

 

Posted in Olga Godim, wattpad | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Writing on spec

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
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OPTIONAL AUGUST QUESTION: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

MY ANSWER: As a reader, I have several pet peeves. One of them is probably the strongest: I dislike cliff-hangers in the end of the books. When I open a book, I expect the story to be contained inside its covers. When it isn’t, when the story stops in mid-stride on the last page, it is either the writer hasn’t done her job properly, or the marketeers prevailed because they think the cliff-hangers will sell the next novel. In my case, it is not true. I usually stop reading the series if I stumble on a cliff-hanger. I’m so resentful of the author for ignoring my expectations and not finishing the story, I don’t want to read her next book.
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I had an interesting experience lately. I sent a short story to a sci-fi anthology. Got a rejection – nothing strange about that – but the rejection itself was worded as an invitation. The editor of the anthology said that they couldn’t use my story but he would like me to write a new story specifically for their anthology. The detailed descriptions of what they wanted – the world and the possible situations they wanted to explore – were attached to the email.

I tried. I really did, but nothing in their suggested world or story ideas appealed to me. I couldn’t write what he wanted, couldn’t come up with an appropriate character, so I sent a polite ‘No’ a couple days later.

The entire experience upset me. As a journalist, I routinely write on spec. All my articles comply with my newspaper’s mandate, style, and word count. I also recently wrote a fan-fiction story, using another writer’s world, although the events and the characters in that story were my own. I put the story, Five Days of Elf, on Wattpad, and it’s steadily gathering readers.

But aside from that one story, I’ve always had trouble writing fiction on spec. A few times one of my stories was included in an anthology were if I already had a story, and it fit the anthology theme perfectly or with minor alterations.

Why couldn’t I write a new story from scratch to this editor’s anthology specs? Why can’t I write fiction on spec in general? Am I not professional enough? The world the editor came up with was fascinating, and the situations fraught with all sorts of conflict. Why was this challenge so hard for me?

Can you write fiction on spec? How often do you do it? What is the best approach, in your opinion? Tell me in the comments.

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Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, Writing | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

My story – the story of the month

One of my magic realism short stories on Wattpad, Dream Frigate, was selected as the story of the month. It happened this morning, and the story’s already acquired several new readers and a number of beautiful comments. Here is one of them: “This story reads like a fable, but feels deeper than that. Beautiful writing. Thank you for sharing.”

I’m feeling proud.

The story summary: Diana thought she would pay any price to get rid of her breast cancer, but there is a price she is not willing to pay.

Cover art by John James Audubon (the frigate bird) and Ivan Aivazovsky (the marine background). Cover design by me.

 

 

Posted in Olga Godim, Short Story, wattpad | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Patriotism and I

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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OPTIONAL JULY QUESTION: What is one valuable lesson you’ve learned since you started writing?

MY ANSWER: There are so many, it is hard to choose, but I think the most valuable one is: you can find story ideas anywhere. When I started writing, I hoarded my story ideas. I was afraid – don’t laugh – that someone would steal them. I’m not afraid anymore. I have so many ideas, I won’t be able to write all my stories. Maybe someone else will use some of my ideas. I don’t mind. After all, I steal story ideas too, but my stories based on those stolen ideas surely are different from anyone else’s stories based on the same ideas.
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One of the ideas that is floating around, especially in the fantasy genre, the genre I write in, is patriotism. A number of writers touch on this theme. In one of my published novels, Eagle en Garde (out of print for now) the protagonist is a patriot. Many of his choices are dictated by his love for his country and its people. But do I have the right to explore this idea?

My relationship with patriotism is complicated. I believe that patriotism is not a clearly defined concept. I think I’m a patriot. I live in Canada. I love Canada. My country celebrated its 150th birthday just a few days ago, on July 1st, 2017, and I feel warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.

For many years, I’ve been a subscriber to a classical music series by our Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Every year, I try to attend the first concert of the year, because the Orchestra starts every season with the Canadian anthem. Everyone in the audience stands up. People sing together. It’s a very uplifting experience. I love it.

I don’t usually pay attention to commercials on TV, but one of them caught my attention in 2000 and still holds it. It’s the famous commercial for Molson Canadian beer. I don’t drink beer, but I love this clip. I always smile when I watch it.

My problem with all this is: I wasn’t born a Canadian. I’m an immigrant and I lived half of my life in Russia before immigrating to Canada.

Years ago, CBC ran a contest for the best ending to the phrase: “As Canadian as…” The winning entry was: “As Canadian as possible under the circumstances.” That phrase applies to me, but can I really consider myself a Canadian patriot? Is that okay to be a patriot of a country that adopted me, not a country I was born and grew up in? Shouldn’t I be a Russian patriot instead? Because I’m not and never have been.

I’m Jewish, and Russia has never been nice to its Jews. Canada is. Canada has been very nice to me. It gave me all I wanted and all I needed to fulfill myself as a woman and a writer. Is it right to be a patriot of a country because it is a good place to live? What about countries that are not so good, countries where life is tough? Could my heroes be patriots of such countries, while I myself am not? Can I write about such patriots convincingly?

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim | Tagged , , | 26 Comments

WEP: Golden Fish

I’m continuing Tasya’s story, although this episode took place after the first one, Back of the Drawer, but before the second one, Peace & Love. Tasya is still pregnant. I hope Yolanda and Denise from the WEP website, as well as the other participants, will forgive my temporal inconsistency.
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“I don’t want to steal with my magic,” Tasya objected. “I’m not a thief.”

“What if someone’s life depends on your ability to steal? Someone might need money to escape arrest,” Grandma said sternly. “You pitch your magic against NKVD – you can’t be squeamish.”

The old witch was right, as usual. Tasya sighed and repeated the exercise. Create a dark space – like under an overturned pot. Envision what you steal. Pull with magic.

She didn’t plan to get rich from her loot anyway. She only stole a few coins from each of the people passing beneath the window. Later, she would give the money away to someone needy.

An hour later, Tasya left her grandma’s place but she didn’t want to return to her empty room. Misha was on a business trips to Voronezh. Again. Lately, he had spent weeks there. His company was building a new plant. As an engineer, he was needed on site. Without him, she felt lonely and uneasy.

Vague premonition had been simmering inside her, and she couldn’t explain it. Misha should be safe; he wore the shield medallion infused with her protective magic. She should be safe too: she was a mere librarian. Just in case, she had recently taken to wearing one of her protective medallions as well – a charming golden fish. Her baby swam like a fish inside her belly after all.

Smiling at the thought, she trudged along the path winding through a shallow ravine, overgrown with bracken. A creek at the bottom separated her old housing development from the more gentrified city blocks and their local theatre house. Tonight, her friend Garik performed in the show. She would wait for him to come out afterwards and hope he could cheer her up.

He had always managed that. They had been classmates and friends, the three of them – Misha, Garik, and herself – since high school. They had lived on the same street too. Garik, the class clown, had always wanted to be an actor. Now he was one.

Absently caressing her belly, Tasya crossed the little foot bridge over the creek. She had to stop on the other side, under the huge willow, to catch her breath. The purloined coins in her purse weighed heavily. Darn her pregnancy. She had never been so weak before.

Panting, she leaned on the willow’s trunk, concealed from the street by the dense, multilayered foliage and the falling dusk. People passed a few meters away, but nobody spared a glance her way. When a loathsome black Marusia rolled to a stop in front of the theatre and two men got out, they didn’t see her either. They marched inside the theatre. They came to arrest someone.

Despite the balmy evening, icy dread ran down Tasya’s spine. Garik, get out, she pleaded silently, trying to nudge her friend with her magic. Perhaps, he heard her mute plea. He slipped out of the side door of the theatre and sprinted toward the bridge.

“Garik!” she called urgently. “Don’t cross the bridge. Hide under.”

He glanced towards her voice, his eyes full of panic. “Why me? What did I do? I’m a comedian,” he mouthed. Dropping on his knees, he scuttled between the low bushes into the muddy nook under the bridge, the hiding place all the local children knew. Unless someone stood in the middle of the creek right in front of him, he would be invisible.

“You make people laugh,” Tasya whispered. She pressed her back to the willow, willing the hanging branches to turn into a true curtain, to envelop her in gloom. Her magic obeyed, and not too soon.

The two men from the Marusia burst out of the theatre. Waving their guns, they pounded towards the bridge. If Garik were fleeing that way, they would’ve seen him despite the descending night. As they didn’t, they stopped to confer a couple steps from Tasya’s refuge, almost on top of Garik’s.

“He didn’t run across,” one officer muttered. “We would’ve spotted him. Where did he go?”

She needed a distraction. Her gaze fell on the handcuffs suspended from their belts. They were so close, her magic sensed the weight of the handcuffs, and the darkness under the willow was almost absolute. All the conditions needed to steal with magic.

Thanking her grandma for the timely felony lesson, Tasya latched onto the handcuffs and tugged with her magic. She didn’t pull them towards herself. She tossed them as far away as her magic could reach, into the shrubbery along the theatre wall. The leaves rustled faintly, as one set of the handcuffs landed, then another.

“There he is,” an officer shouted and took off after the handcuffs. Another followed. Both disappeared around the corner.

“Across the bridge, Garik,” Tasya hissed. “Hurry!”

He scrambled from underneath and raced across the bridge, vanishing into the bushes of the ravine. Much more slowly, she waddled after him. The officers didn’t show up again, but she watched from the safety of the ravine as the Marusia drove rapidly away from the theatre. It would head towards the large traffic bridge, blocks away.

“Tasya?”

“Garik, where are you?” The ravine didn’t provide any illumination.

“I’m here.” He grabbed her hand and guided her towards the street lights and home. “Careful. If you fall down now and break something, Misha would skin me alive, worse than those NKVD goons. I’ll just run home, pick up some stuff, and be gone.”

“No, don’t go home. They know where you live.”

“By the time they drive around, I’ll be long gone.”

“What if they already have someone waiting there?”

Garik swore. “What do I do? I don’t have much money with me.”

“I do.” Luckily. She rummaged in her purse for the stash of coins she had stolen from the passersby earlier and thrust the small jiggling canvas bag at him. “That should be enough to keep you fed for a while.” Then she took off the fish necklace and put it over Garik’s head. “You slipped through their net once. This fish will keep you slippery, so they never catch you. Wear this medallion always, promise me,” she whispered, pouring her magic into the fish. The golden creature seemed to flutter for a moment under her fingers.

“Thank you, Tasya. I promise.”

They were already close enough to the street lights so Tasya could finally see the path under her feet. She pushed Garik away. “Go. Leave Moscow, and you’ll be safe.”

He nodded, started to say something, changed his mind, and melted into the side street.

Tasya felt light, almost weightless without the burden of coins in her purse. No, she realized. It wasn’t just the coins. Her premonition had lifted. She smiled and shuffled home.

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Posted in Magic, Olga Godim, WEP | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

Looking for beta-readers

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

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OPTIONAL JUNE QUESTION: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

MY ANSWER: Actually, no. I started writing late in life, when I finally discovered the joy of sharing my stories with the world – mainly my computer, but still, not just my head. Writing is where I ended up after decades of searching for my place in life. My stories are my refuge and my joy. I might stop writing them down one day but I don’t think I’ll ever quit making them up. It’s not up to me anyway, and my imagination doesn’t show any signs of quitting. The stories appear in my mind – or snatches of stories sometimes – no matter whether I write them down or not.
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But I quit something else related to my writing, and maybe I shouldn’t have. For a long time I looked for an online writing group in my genre of speculative fiction, or a couple beta readers for my new fantasy and sci-fi stories, but for one reason or another, I couldn’t find a permanent solution to this problem. A couple years ago, I quit trying, but we all know how useful a beta-reader’s critique could be. A few months back, I exchanged beta-reading with another writer (I read her story and she read mine), and her comments helped me tremendously to improve my story. I only hope my comments were equally helpful to her. Unfortunately, she doesn’t need my critique anymore, so I can’t ask her either.

Now, I’m looking for beta readers again for my new sci-fi short story. So I’m asking here. If I don’t ask, I will never know if anyone is willing, right? Maybe some of you, my wonderful IWSG friends, would be willing to beta-read my story or exchange critique with me. Tell me in the comments.

The story is roughly 7,500 words. It’s science fiction. It is also a retelling of the Greek myth of Arion and the dolphin.

Posted in Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim | Tagged , , | 46 Comments

Isabella and the Pot of Basil

The legend of Isabella and the Pot of Basil inspired many artists, especially those belonging to the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. You might have admired some of their paintings based on that legend, but do you know the story? It’s not as romantic as the paintings imply. It originated in Boccaccio’s Decameron (day IV, story 5). Here is the summary.

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William Holman Hunt

Three merchant brothers had a beautiful sister Isabetta. She fell in love with Lorenzo, one of her brothers’ clerks, and he returned her sentiment. Once, when she went to Lorenzo’s bedchamber at night, as she did most nights, one of the brothers noticed.

The brothers got angry, lured Lorenzo to a secluded spot in the woods a few days later, and murdered him. They told Isabetta that Lorenzo went away on a business trip.

She missed her lover terribly, cried, and prayed, and finally, he appeared in her dream and told her what happened and where the brothers buried his body. She went there and uncovered the body. She couldn’t take it home, of course, so she chopped off his head and brought it home, where she kissed it, washed it, and put it inside a big planter pot. She filled the rest of the pot with soil and planted basil on top. (I have some choice words here, but I’ll refrain from expressing my disgust.)

Edward Reginald Frampton

She watered her new basil planter with rose water and her tears exclusively, and the plants flourished, while Isabetta gradually declined. When the brothers saw that her attraction to the pot of basil robbed her of her health and beauty, they stole the pot away to check what was inside. Deprived of her beloved pot of basil, Isabetta died of broken heart.
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John Melhuish Strudwick

A nice romantic story, isn’t it? Who cares about the ghoulish slant, right?

In 1818, John Keats wrote a poem based on that story. Several of Pre-Raphaelite painters, inspired by his poem, created beautiful paintings. Some, like William Holman Hunt and John Melhuish Strudwick, even produced two different versions. Obviously, those paintings were successful. They throb with emotions, the girls in the paintings are the epitomes of a romantic female, so admired by the brotherhood, the backgrounds are richly detailed, but the legend itself grossed me out. I mean: she buried a cadaver’s head in a pot and kept it close to her bed, while the organics inside decomposed slowly. It’s so macabre, it doesn’t fit inside my mind. And they painted it. Yikes!

*** You could click on all the paintings in this post to see the larger versions. ***

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There are many visual interpretations of this legend, some of them contemporary, but I can’t show them all here, although below are a few more. They are all really beautiful paintings. Especially if you don’t know the story.

George Henry Grenville Manton

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Joseph Severn

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Arthur Nowel

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Interview with Altenay

On May 2nd, the anthology of fantasy short stories Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life was released by Dancing Lemur Press. The anthology is comprised of 12 stories. One of them is my story Captain Bulat.

As a promotional effort, several of the authors, me included, decided to interview our leading characters on the anthology-dedicated website. Here is a re-blog of that interview I conducted with the heroine of my story, Altenay.

Tell me about yourself—name, profession, home, family, the usual.

I’m Altenay. I’m 19 years old and am a Bessar. My people, Bassars, were nomads for centuries before they settled in this kingdom a hundred years ago. We keep our traditions and clothing and we look different than the rest of the citizens. They mostly have white skin and blond or sandy hair, while we have brown skin and dark hair. Otherwise, we are all the same, under the same laws. Now and again, some troublemakers would stir troubles between our nations, and someone would break someone else’s stall in a marketplace, or a fist fight would erupt in a tavern, but our King is fair to everyone, and his guards always maintain peace between Bessars and the rest. Some people intermarry, of course, but most keep to their own nation when starting a family.

My best friend, Vasilisa, is not a Bessar. She has beautiful honey-colored braids and cute freckles, and I love her to distraction. I owe her my freedom, but that is another story. You can read it here.

Both Vasilisa and I don’t have any family but each other. Vasilisa is a taxidermist. I’m a Finder. We live together in the same house… until Vasilisa finds the love of her life and gets married. I think it will happen soon: she is too lovely to stay single. Already several young men are courting her. When she picks the best one, I’ll move out and get a place of my own. I doubt I’ll ever marry but I’ll love Vasilisa’s children. I’ll spoil them rotten. I hope she has many.

How did you end up in this crazy adventure your story talks about?

Councilor Shamer, one of the most powerful men in our city, hired me to find Captain Bulat. That’s what I do. I’m a Finder. I Find things and people that are lost. The man, Captain Bulat, had been a hero of the last war, which ended 25 years ago. He disappeared a few days after the peace treaty had been signed. The City Council wanted to put up a statue in his honor, to commemorate our victory in the war, and they wanted me find their lost hero. If he was still alive.

It was a strange case. Usually, I’m hired to find something like a misplaced brooch, a stolen bolt of expensive fabric, or a pony who wandered off in the night. Something lost recently, not two decades after the fact… although there was one other memorable occasion. Anyway, in the Captain Bulat’s case, my Finder’s magic started misbehaving from the moment I attempted my first search. I knew something was wrong about this fellow, although I didn’t believe he was dead. Perhaps he was hiding from my magic, or someone else was interfering with my search? Someone definitely didn’t want me to find him.

I shouldn’t have accepted the job, it felt dangerous from the beginning, but I had no choice. I did take the Councilor’s money. I had to deliver the results: either find the man or at least find proof of his death.

Could you tell me about the most interesting case of yours?

The most interesting? It was probably my first case in the city, soon after Vasilisa and I arrived here. A lady came to me – I won’t embarrass her by disclosing her name; I promise full discretion to all my customers – and asked me to find her illegitimate child. Fifteen years ago, she had been unfaithful to her husband, and the baby was the result. The husband, a high-ranking officer, had been away from home both at the time of conception and of birth, lucky for her. I heard he had been a brute. He wouldn’t have forgiven her betrayal.

Her labor was hard, and she was unconscious for two days after. She never saw her baby. Her midwife, a loyal servant of hers, had taken the baby away, as instructed, and never returned. The lady didn’t know what happened to her or the baby. She didn’t even know if she had given birth to a girl or a boy. After her husband’s recent death, she wanted to find her baby again and adopt it formally. Her late husband and she didn’t have any children of their own.

It was a fascinating case: both the search and its results. But that is an entirely different story.

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The anthology is available everywhere books are sold. Or you can buy it from the publisher’s website.

The cover art for my story is a painting by the Polish artist working in France Emile Eisman-Semenowsky (1859-1911).

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Posted in Character interview, Fantasy, Olga Godim, Short Story | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments